Journal of Bionic Engineering

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 526–532 | Cite as

A Cilia-inspired Closed-loop Sensor-actuator Array

  • James G. H. Whiting
  • Richard Mayne
  • Chris Melhuish
  • Andrew Adamatzky


Cilia are finger-like cell-surface organelles that are used by certain varieties of aquatic unicellular organisms for motility, sensing and object manipulation. Initiated by internal generators and external mechanical and chemical stimuli, coordinated undulations of cilia lead to the motion of a fluid surrounding the organism. This motion transports micro-particles towards an oral cavity and provides motile force. Inspired by the emergent properties of cilia possessed by the pond organism P. caudatum, we propose a novel smart surface with closed-loop control using sensor-actuators pairings that can manipulate objects. Each vibrating motor actuator is controlled by a localised microcontroller which utilises proximity sensor information to initiate actuation. The circuit boards are designed to be plug-and-play and are infinitely up-scalable and reconfigurable. The smart surface is capable of moving objects at a speed of 7.2 millimetres per second in forward or reverse direction. Further development of this platform will include more anatomically similar biomimetic cilia and control.


bioinspiration artificial cilia object manipulation sorting platforms 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



This work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust research project “Artificial P. caudatum: intelligent distributed sensing and manipulation by ciliates” (Number RPG-2013-345).


  1. [1]
    Mitchell D. The evolution of eukaryotic cilia and flagella as motile and sensory organelles. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 2007, 607, 130–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. [2]
    Tamm S L. Ciliary motion in paramecium a scanning electron microscope study. Journal of Cell Biology, 1972, 55, 250–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. [3]
    Ibanez-Tallon I, Heintz N, Omran H. To beat or not to beat: Roles of cilia in development and disease. Human Molecular Genetics, 2003, 12, R27–R35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. [4]
    Satir P, Christensen S. Structure and function of mammalian cilia. Histochemistry and Cell Biology, 2008, 129, 687–693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    Mayne R, Whiting J G H, Wheway G, Melhuish C, Adamatzky A. Particle sorting by paramecium cilia arrays. BioSystems, 2017, 156, 46–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. [6]
    Peshkin M A, Sanderson A C. Planning robotic manipulation strategies for work pieces that slide. IEEE Journal on Robotics and Automation, 1988, 4, 524–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. [7]
    McGuire P M. Conveyors: Application, Selection, and Integration. CRC Press, Florida, USA, 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. [8]
    Borovic B, Liu A Q, Popa D, Cai H, Lewis F L. Open-loop versus closed-loop control of MEMS devices: Choices and issues. Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, 2005, 15, 1917–1924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. [9]
    Böhringer K F, Choset H. Distributed Manipulation, 1st ed., Springer Science & Business Media, New York, USA, 2012.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  10. [10]
    Groover M P. Automation, Production Systems, and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing, 3rd ed., Pearson Education Limited, London, UK, 2014.Google Scholar
  11. [11]
    Goldberg K Y. Orientating polygonal parts without sensors. Algorithmica, 1993, 10, 201–225.MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  12. [12]
    Kavraki L E. Part orientation with programmable vector fields: Two stable equilibria for most parts. Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on In Robotics and Automation, Albuquerque, USA, 1997, 2446–2451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. [13]
    Bohringer K F, Donald B R, MacDonald N C. Programmable force fields for distributed manipulation, with applications to mems actuator arrays and vibratory parts feeders. International Journal of Robotics Research, 1999, 18, 168–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. [14]
    Zhou Z G, Liu Z W. Biomimetic cilia based on MEMS technology. Journal of Bionic Engineering, 2008, 5, 358–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. [15]
    Ataka M, Legrand B, Buchaillot L, Collard D, Fujita H. Design, fabrication, and operation of two dimensional conveyance system with ciliary actuator arrays. IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, 2009, 14, 119–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. [16]
    Boutoustous K, Laurent G J, Dedu E, Matignon L, Bourgeois J, Le Fort-Piat N. Distributed control architecture for smart surfaces. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Taipei, China, 2010, 2018–2024.Google Scholar
  17. [17]
    Suh J W, Darling R B, Bohringer K F, Donald B R, Baltes H, Kovacs G T A. CMOS integrated ciliary actuator array as a general-purpose micromanipulation tool for small objects. Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems, 1999, 8, 483–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. [18]
    Bohringer K F, Donald B R, Mihailovich R, MacDonald N C. Sensorless manipulation using massively parallel microfabricated actuator arrays. Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, San Diego, USA, 1994, 826–833.Google Scholar
  19. [19]
    Georgilas I, Adamatzky A, Barr D, Dudek P, Melhuish C. Metachronal waves in cellular automata: Cilia-like manipulation in actuator arrays. Studies in Computational Intelligence, 2014, 512, 261–271.Google Scholar
  20. [20]
  21. [21]
  22. [22]
    Brehm P, Eckert R. An electrophysiological study of the regulation of ciliary beating frequency in paramecium. Journal of Physiology, 1978, 283, 557–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. [23]
    Bohringer K F, Donald B R, MacDonald N C. Single-crystal silicon actuator arrays for micro manipulation tasks. The Ninth Annual International Workshop on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, San Diego CA, USA, 1996, 7–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. [24]
    Funfak A, Fisch C, Motaal T A, Diener J, Combettes L, Baroud N, Dupuis-williams P. Paramecium swimming and ciliary beating patterns: A study on four RNA interference mutations. Integrative Biology, 2015, 7, 90–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Jilin University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • James G. H. Whiting
    • 1
  • Richard Mayne
    • 1
  • Chris Melhuish
    • 1
  • Andrew Adamatzky
    • 1
  1. 1.Unconventional Computing Centre and Bristol Robotics LaboratoryUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

Personalised recommendations